[This article was originally posted on Leviathyn.]
On a recent excursion, I questioned my choice of accepting to go cave-crawling with a few friends while a perfectly respectable bed went unused at my house. Then, halfway down a subterranean cavern, something struck me (no, not a stalagmite): I realized that the journalism career I have been pursuing shares many characteristics with the ridiculous feat I was attempting to accomplish.
First, as most journalists will tell you, it takes a heck of a lot of perseverance to sit down for hours pumping out articles with deadlines so close that every beckoning moment forces you to question why you even chose to get out of bed that morning. Inversely, any veteran cave-crawler will let you know that, first and foremost, surviving in a cave is a horrendously difficult mountain to climb (pun intended).
Second, most writers will let you in on a fine secret that gives them the drive to continue along with their journey even if they end up not being compensated very well: never stop. This seems like lofty advice considering the fact that anybody who makes a livelihood doing anything knows better than to stop doing the very thing that puts food on their table, but it can be the biggest hurdle that young writers face in the wake of all the stresses of life, work, and family.
Spelunking takes a different (yet very similar) approach to the same topic by encouraging its veterans to consider spending the rest of their days rotting at the bottom of a cave. Now, if this previous image is too dastardly for you to bear, you must consider the fact that it still possesses a certain level of legitimacy if you actually fancy venturing into a pit with only enough food to last you the afternoon. For the spelunker, life and death are the reality which they must face.
Third, when contemplating the similarities between spelunking and journalism, a crazy thought comes to mind: both of the activities require a great deal of commitment. I mean, to make the decision to venture 100 feet beneath the Earth’s surface, you must either be crazy or incredibly unsatisfied with living a normal day-to-day life. In my case, I’d honestly attest to possessing both of those traits in varying proportions (though my sanity shouldn’t be questioned too much).
Moving forward, any writer will agree with me when I say that staying true to the art is probably one of the hardest parts of the occupation. Whether you are just starting out, or you’ve been committed to it for years, you will always be faced with the task of coming up with fresh new ideas in light of all the issues that may arise in life.
Taking a cue from some journalists that I’ve had the opportunity to come in contact with, I will say that if you’ve ever considered leaping headfirst into the field of writing, you should prepare for a great deal of difficulty. Especially if you’re still a student like me. You may find yourself questioning why you chose to join a site that requires you to write 15 articles per week only to realize that having the opportunity to have your voice heard is something that many people don’t get. Journalists live through words while spelunkers live by the cave wall. In both cases, their livelihood is hanging in the balance (pun definitely intended).
Finally, taking a step back and analyzing the incredibly grotesque comparison that I have proposed in this article, it goes without saying that in both spelunking and games journalism you’ll only continue to practice these difficult tasks if that’s where your heart really is. As mentioned before, spelunking is an incredibly dangerous activity that requires equipment and training to guarantee safety – safety being that strange word that somehow justifies a number of dangerous activities which, for all intents and purposes, were never intended for human beings to commit to. However, if you truly enjoy being “in touch with nature” and simultaneously having your life hang in the balance, then I heavily encourage you to engage in all the extreme activities that come your way.
For writers like myself, however, our approach to defying death comes in the form of putting ourselves (and our work) out into the world. We may not be dealing with situations as dangerous as those faced by the common spelunker, but we still need the strength to stand up to terrible commenters and rude critics.
No matter what you’re doing in life, whether it’s writing about games our diving into caves, don’t give up.